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Wednesday, Oct 16th

Nigeria: industry insiders question MTN's motives

Nigeria: Industry insiders question MTN's motives on NCC fine.

While the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has confirmed that MTN is making efforts to amicably resolve matters relating to the fine imposed last year, industry analysts believe the mobile operator is playing for time to avoid payment.

Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the commission said the organisation's lawyers have confirmed the operator's efforts. "Our lawyers communicated to us that indeed MTN is resorting to a settlement out of court," said Danbatta. "They (MTN) are trying to get this settled amicably," he said.

The decision of the court to grant MTN's request for an out-of-court settlement was met with suspicion that the operator was only trying to delay the judicial process.

One of those that opposed MTN's proposal is Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, Oladipo Opeseyi.

According to Opeseyi, the NCC had agreed to reduce the fine it imposed on MTN after the operator made an appeal to the commission. Instead of continuing the process of lobbying, he said MTN decided to go to court.

Opeseyi's concerns have been echoed by several industry analysts who believe that MTN does not have any plans to pay any fines. Instead, the network is said to be using the court to delay the process of justice during which it would be able to move its funds out of Nigeria.

The Nigerian government failed to obtain a court injunction to freeze MTN's accounts.

Govt advises operator

Meanwhile the Nigerian government has advised MTN to willingly withdraw the lawsuit it filed before a high court in Lagos over the US$5.2 billion fine.

Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria's Minister for Communications, said, "If they withdraw it creates a better environment, an environment where there is no stress or pressure on either side," he said.

However, Shittu said he is not aware of any out-of-court settlement of the case stating that Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, will take the final decision on the matter relating to the fine and the operator. "The president will make the final decision on the matter but MTN will be advised to withdraw the court case filed against the fine," he said.

Attempts to reach MTN for comment proved unsuccessful.

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